Lesson 1: Introduction, Anatomical Position & Anatomical Directions

by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

Students have often stated that taking an anatomy course for the first time is like trying to learn a new language...  and what a great analogy for these introductory lessons.   The first 6 lessons, or so, are exactly that, "learning the language of anatomy". Why does it feel like a new language?

  • First, it is... well... actually it's an old language - most of the terminology has Latin roots (some Greek). Just as you would practice using new vocabulary in a Spanish class, you will need to do the same with new terms you learn in this course.  Grab a co-worker, classmate, or colleague; make flash cards, use practice exams to quiz one another, play "Anatomy Simon Says", or try to teach on another some portion of the lesson.  The most important part is not necessarily the activity (if you are a student, there is no need to spend hours devising lessons), but the practice of using the words in a conversation.  When appropriate I will list the etymology (the origin of a word) of anatomical terms.  In time, you will start to notice common roots, suffixes and prefixes making memorization easier.  Soon you will find that you can even extract the definition of a word by breaking it into parts.
  • Second, anatomical terms are jargon.

jar·gon (noun ˈjär-gən, -ˌgän) : the language used for a particular activity or by a particular group of people (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jargon)

  • The use of Anatomy jargon is no different than the way computer programmers use various words to describe code (or even the coding itself for that matter), or teenagers using chopped up abbreviations while texting.  Anatomical terminology is a specific language to unify and ensure